Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

South African Media and Politics: Is the Three Models Approach Still Valid After Two Decades?

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Abstract:  When Hallin and Mancini (2004) produced their watershed three models theory, South Africa was a new democracy barely a decade old. Even then, along with other countries of the Global South, the experience of a young democracy posed certain critical challenges to Hallin and Mancini’s understanding of the way that media and politics interrelate. Two decades later, South Africa has continued to change. There has been increased diversity in media ownership, rapid growth in community and social media, digital disruption, and significant challenges to media freedom. How does the three models theory stack up now? This article reviews scholarly critiques of Hallin and Mancini’s model, including their follow-up work, Comparing Media Systems Beyond the Western World (2012), and assesses to what extent the three models is still a valid approach to understanding the connection between media and politics in the Global South. The article concludes by evaluating Hadland’s (2012) Africanisation of the model in light of the complex postcolonial trajectories of South Africa, suggesting that this, along with Hallin et al.’s (2021) expanded hybridisation model, still offers a better set of variables with which to understand how the media and political systems intertwine in the postcolony.

Keywords:  comparative media systems; democracy; Global South; South Africa; three models



© Bernadine Jones, Adrian Hadland. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.